Mr. Khizr Khan Interview Highlights

Khizr Khan speaks quietly, yet purposefully. But for his towering height, he may not have stood out in the crowd at our June 14, 2017 fundraiser in Washington, D.C. The father of a Muslim-American soldier, who was killed in the Iraq War, gained celebrity status following his televised speech at the Democratic National Convention last August. During the speech, where he was flanked by his wife, Khan famously held up a pocket copy of the Constitution as he called out then-candidate Donald Trump for his rhetoric against Muslim Americans.

Khan sat down with the social media action team of AAA Fund for an interview.

Here are the highlights.

  • Since his appearance at the Democratic National Committee convention, Khan has spent less time in his hometown of Charlottesville, Va. He has made 124 public appearances across the country. He feels compelled to speak out “because I feel personally that the country needs the voice of all of us.”

    “That has been my journey and I will continue to speak.”

  • Khan draws strength from meeting people from his visits to California, Iowa, Texas, Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C. “I have never felt so positive, hopeful and enthusiastic as I feel now when I meet communities … This difficult moment is momentary. It will pass,” he said.

    Where does he derive his optimism? Khan says that he sees Americans “stand for the rule of law, stand for pluralism, stand for goodness of this country.” He says it has been a blessing to have the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and to be among people who also uphold its principles.

  • Khan wants to do more than to come together in affirmation of democratic values. “My emphasis today is on action,” Khan said. He has a clarion call for Americans:

    First, Khan urges Americans to run for office. “Become candidates – not only voters – for school board, county boards, state assembly, Congress.”

    Second, he says that voting is a “must.” “Voting is a privilege, an honor and an obligation.”

    Third, Khan calls on elected officials and the public to speak out against hate crimes. “Hatred is un-American. … regardless of where it comes from or who displays it.” Specifically, he said he was troubled by the murders of the two men who defended Muslim American women in Portland, Oregon, and the recruit who was killed by an alt-right follower on the University of Maryland campus.

  • The Khan family experienced the ultimate sacrifice called for by any American: the loss of their son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, 27, who died from a suicide bombing in Baghdad 12 years ago.

    When asked to share his thoughts about this sacrifice, Khan immediately spoke favorably about the people in military service and the service itself.

    “These are patriotic Americans,” he said. “We are indebted to their sacrifice. We will not be complete unless we honor the sacrifice of those who stood for this country and sacrificed their lives for this country.”

    Further, Khan urges anyone who wishes to [join] the armed services or law enforcement to do so. “It’s voluntary, not obligatory.”

    At the same time, Khan views military service as a patriotic duty that cannot be eschewed when the time calls.

    “When you made this country, this land, this nation, your home, you must defend it” he said, emphasizing again, “You must defend it.”

    “There is no ‘if.’ There is no ‘but.’ There is no ‘I will enjoy the Constitutions, the Bill of Rights, and I will not defend it.’ That is not patriotic.”

  • When asked about Khan’s advice to Asian Pacific Americans, particularly immigrants who are not yet registered to vote, voting or otherwise engaged in civic activities, he said:

    My humble message would be this: We, parents and families, emigrated to the United States. The United States is a republic and a democracy where your voice can only be heard by participation. … otherwise we [will] sit on the sidelines, and … be ignored.

    “If you come to this country, you must fulfill the obligation,” he ended.

P.S.: Thanks also to Kumar Jayasuriya and Christine Moua for transcription, recording, and editing.

What I Have Learned Since the Election

anger questions

Editor’s Note: This is the third in the pursuit of social justice by our 2017 Mike Honda Writing Fellow, Amanda Ong. Read her first piece on identity, second piece on Tam v. USPTO, and bio intro.

It has been months since the night Donald Trump was made our country’s President Elect. I’ve listened to many people voice their fears and concerns since then – people expressing anger, sorrow, hope—it often has felt as if there are no words left for me to say. Still, I find myself here and Trump’s inauguration pressing forward with not much more than my words to give. So let me give.

The morning after the election, I cried for hours. I grieved. I raged. I felt afraid and hopeless, and in that moment no reasoning could have helped me. I had almost never felt so much like I didn’t have a voice before.

I was angry. I was angry that so many people in our country were willing not only to dismiss racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence, but also to uphold those discriminatory values institutionally. I was angry about the future of the world this set forth for me and other young people: a world where women do not have rights to their own bodies, people of color are systematically excluded and disparaged, and members of the LGBTQ community are told they are wrong for being who they are; a world where violence is condoned above justice and peace. I was angry that any man, no matter how unqualified the man, was valued above any woman in this country, no matter how qualified the woman. I was angry with the people who supported him, and then I was angry with myself for feeling such hatred.

But in this was the first thing the election made me realize: we are entitled to our feelings whether they be grief, anger, or even hate. It’s important that in trying times we allow ourselves to just take a moment and feel. We must do what we can to heal, and a large part of that involves letting ourselves feel. I could not be angry with myself for feeling the hate I felt, I just had to rise above it.

Thus lends the second thing I learned. While we have to let ourselves feel anger and hatred, we can’t let them consume us and we can’t act on those feelings. In the words of my professor the week following the election, it is very, very easy to mobilize around anger and hatred. It is much harder to mobilize around hope, and around love, but it is what we must do.
Even when we may feel hopeless, cynical, and full of the world’s hurt, I believe we still must make the choice to focus on love, hope, and compassion . I know it is hard and I am privileged to be able to make that choice. But if it is a choice we have, it is the choice we should make. This is a part of healing. Sometimes healing means taking time off, consolidating your thoughts, and relaxing, because these are things we need to do in order to move on. Sometimes healing means knowing when it’s time to move forward, or knowing when to take the high road even though it’s hard to. I don’t want to simply be angry with Trump supporters because they didn’t understand my values, or because their actions hurt people I care about. I need more than anger. I need them to understand my values so I must also understand them. Even, no, especially when we are polarized, communication and compassion are crucial. We must live day-to-day doing our best to communicate our values of equity and justice to others, and doing our best to have compassion. We must live every moment knowing that the hatred and marginalization that exists and has always existed in our country should not be normal, can not be normal. Instead we must normalize compassion. We most normalize love. We must not become the enemy.

Finally, this election reaffirmed to me that it is not enough to just post, talk, or believe in the tenets of equity and justice. We must engage in concrete political action. If we only believe and do not firmly act, we just take up space in the activist community. Inaction and silence threaten the very cause one theoretically supports. Whenever we can, we must give whatever we can to the causes we believe in. Regardless of whether our actions manifest as organizing Big Protests or dinner table revolutions or giving money or keeping one’s representative accountable, we must find ways to act.

This is what I have learned from the election. Despite the disempowerment I have felt, I must choose to learn, empathize, and act. There is still hope. There is always still opportunity for us to coalesce and fight for our rights, for what is right. I intend on being a part of that of that fight—and I hope you do too .

Silence, memory, and endurance: a personal family history

China kleptocracy

Sometimes I look at the abyss we’re headed into and I shiver. We are going to have unqualified kleptocrats running this country, which has thus far survived because of a strange mix of democracy, special interests, and forward thinking by our nation’s leaders.

Then I remember what my family has been through on both sides, and I know that we have been through worse and survived. Over the past few months, I have been collecting the oral history of my 92 year old grandmother, who was born in 1916 (Chinese years start at 1 – East Asian counting of ages.) I regret that I started so late, for she is the only one whose memory of these years is intact.

Consider the chances: on both sides, my grandparents fled China for Taiwan, and then decades later, my parents migrated to America. This dual migration has led to many silences that ring through our family’s history and the loss of important historical documents. My paternal grandma, or Nai Nai, was the only one from her village who was able to leave China before the Cultural Revolution. My paternal grandfather, or Ye Ye, manned the flight controls on a plane for the Kuomingdang (Nationalist) Army, and was even sent to the United States to train for a period. Which I guess places him in this era of Taiwanese pilots who trained in America from 1937-1945, as my grandma cannot recall the exact years.

They had been placed into an arranged marriage at an early age, and knew each other growing up. Nonetheless, the fact that my grandpa still called for her to come and join him was a rare opportunity. When my grandmother arrived at the departure point, it was a month before her name was called to go on one of the few planes leaving for Taiwan. When I asked if she was scared, grandma laughed and said, “No, I always had a lot of courage. Even when my siblings didn’t want to go outside, I wanted to explore.”

For a young woman, Nai Nai was able to attain a certain level of education and even studied accounting. As a child, she and her sisters had managed to escape the traditional footbinding because they were set to start school, and had to walk there, so her mom opted not to begin. Over the years, Nai Nai kept in touch with her family in China – parents, brothers, and sisters – through letters. Through missives, she learned that her parents, and her brothers all died, mostly due to starvation. One younger sister, or mei mei, remained by the first time she was able to return to China in the 1980s. She had never expected the war and the distance to last for so long. While grandma was heartbroken she didn’t get to see her family altogether again, she is grateful for the life that she has lived, and for all the experiences she has enjoyed. My grandpa Ye Ye was one of three sons, one of whom was sickly and passed early. His eldest brother passed when he was in his 30s. So Ye Ye became the only one to go to Taiwan, and then America.

My father and mother were both born on the emerald isle of Formosa, also known as Taiwan. On my mom’s side, my Gong Gong and Poa Poa were set to give her up for adoption as she was the 4th child born into the family, it was wartime, and there wasn’t enough food. The elderly neighbors were looking forward to taking my mother into their family, but when she was born, my Grandma decided my mom was too cute, and our biological family kept her. In the time that they grew up, Taiwan was subject to the longest stretch of martial law that any nation has ever had.

She would meet my dad in elementary school, and then they would go on to date as young adults. After college, my dad’s professor needed help with research in the United States, and asked him to assist. Much like my grandfather did, my father came to the US and then called for my mother to join him. It was in the United States that they settled and raised one child.

Three generations, spanning three different countries. If it had been for any of these experiences being different, or chance intruding, my life wouldn’t be what it is. So I am grateful to the generations that come before – to their strength and resilience, and I seek to preserve these memories for the generations that come after. In recognition that they survived when so many didn’t, and of the nimble and enduring spirit that sustained them, I vow to remain resolute and strong. The things that I have seen and experienced are dwarfed by the alignment of luck that it took for generations on both sides to come across three countries to America.

Like most Asian American families, we came here after the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, and now there are three generations of us living in the United States. We are here by law and by policy, as teachers and doctors, as professionals and creatives, as people of faith and people on a journey, giving back to the country of our birth and adoption. To know history is to know yourself. We are here as free citizens, whose ancestors fought wars in search of freedom. No one can take that from us unless we let them.

An Activist Guide to the Women’s March on Washington

"Hear Our Voice by Liza Donovan"

Hear Our Voice” by Liza Donovan


The Women’s March on Washington on January 21, Saturday, is three days away, as apparent by the increasing buzz over social media. Here are a few tips and resources to prepare for the historic event and to meet fellow activists in town from around the country. The march is free and open to the public. No tickets required.

Leave Home Without It

Before you pack that backpack, put it down.  Backpacks are not allowed unless they are transparent and no larger than 17”x12”x6”. Small bags under 8”x6”x4” are allowed, however. So is a plastic bag for food. With security tight, leave anything that can be seen as potentially a weapon, i.e., mace at home. That goes for wooden sticks for posters, too. The organizers have a well-laid out website. It’s worth reading the full guidelines on the FAQ page.

Make Preparations

Getting thereRoads are being closed downtown as early as January 18, and some restrictions will be in force until after inauguration. So, likely, people will be taking the metro. Get a SmarTrip metro pass in advance of Saturday, if you don’t already have one, and load up a roundtrip ticket. The metro station opens at 7 a.m., and runs on regular weekend service until midnight. Be aware that limited edition inaugural passes being sold. They are good only for inauguration day, the day before the march. Therefore, do not buy them thinking you can use them on the day of the march.

Dress warmly, pack smartly: The weather forecast is a high of 54 and a low of 47.   Courtesy of a helpful blogger, check out the following a list of attire and items to bring to the march. Add a portable battery charger for your smart phone.

Express yourself: If you want to bring a sign, but don’t want to make one, you can download free posters with official artwork from the march. Want it sturdier?  Attach to foam board. Spill proof? Use clear duct tape. But if you do want to make your own, and seek inspiration, check out the march’s unity principles.

Rally, then March

The day starts with a rally at 10 a.m. at the intersection of Independence Avenue and Third Street, SW, Washington, D.C. Plan ahead to meet elsewhere if you have a group of friends. With at least 200,000 marchers expected, trying to be conspicuous in a crowd that size with a sign or matching colors may be challenging. After the rally, the march will follow a route that hasn’t been disclosed yet; however, it’ll end near the White House.

Rest at a Welcome Station

Check out these sites, which include local businesses, churches and museums opening their doors to marchers to warm up, charge their smart phones, use the restrooms and get a snack.

Stay Safe

Safety comes in numbers. If you don’t want to go alone, you may check with any of the march’s partner organizations for meet ups. Among the partners, the President of Global Summit for Women, Irene Natividad, invites marchers to join her.

Know that the march’s organizers have secured a permit.  However, if you run into trouble, call the march’s legal hotline (ACLU-DC): (202) 670-6866. Also, consult this know your rights brochure for encounters with the police.

If you witness a third-party encounter with the police that you want to report to the ACLU, you can do so through an app called Mobile Justice DC. Learning to use the app takes only a minute and a half.  You learn to record videos or fill out an incident form, either which gets sent to the ACLU automatically. You have the choice to report anonymously. A useful feature is pushing out an alert to app users around you of the incident’s location.

In terms of running into throngs of people who hold opposing views from the marchers, the likelihood appears small judging from the permits. Media reports that Bikers for Trump (5,000 members) are in town primarily for the inauguration.  But, the permit granted to them does last until the day of the march, and at a location potentially along the march route.

Hobnob with the Activists

Starting January 19, daily events abound for activists in town for the weekend.   The offerings range from speaker panels and teach ins to political improv and art performances and more.  A few additional highlights:

Friday, January 20 – 21, 2017

Rise Above:  Newly minted organizations Rise When We Fall and Lawyers for Good Government will co-host an inaugural conference featuring activist meet ups, speakers, and break out policy workshops. While registration is closed, you can register for the wait list.  Further, you can join either or both organizations.  Lawyers for Good Government, a network of 120,000 lawyers, law students and activists formed after the election, has a call out to people interested in creating state chapters.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

NAPAWF post-march convening: The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum will host a convening after the march “to strategize with other AAPI activists in preparation for the first 100 days of the Trump administration. The convening will provide space for AAPI women and transgender people to debrief the march and reflect and share in community, as well as looking ahead to resistance in 2017.” The Calvary Baptist Church, 755 8th St NW, 4:00-5:30 pm.

Where We Go From Here: Women’s Town Hall and Reception:

Leaders from the feminist movement like Gloria Steinem will be featured on speaker panels.  The National Press Club, 529 14th Street, N.W., 6-10 pm.  As registration for the event already has moved to the waitlist, sign up to participate by livestream.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Training for Women Running for Office: Emily’s List and AAA Fund, among other partners will co-host a training for future elected officials. Downtown, TBA, 9 am – 12 noon.

Outside of DC

Unable to make it Washington, D.C.?  Find a sister march nearest you.  With a sister march planned in every state, and even outside of the United States, you’ll be in the company of 700,000 people marching in spirit with those in the nation’s capital.

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